Long before Ice Cream Sandwich was ever made official, there were rumors floating around of the update that would follow, Jelly Bean. We knew Ice Cream Sandwich would be a major update as even Google had said the next major update would bring the tablet- and phone-specific versions of the operating system back together. Other than that, though, we really didn't know anything about Ice Cream Sandwich – it was all just speculation. And we knew even less about Jelly Bean.
Ice Cream Sandwich was finally made official and available to the public in mid-November. And seven months later, in a move that surprised no one, Google made Jelly Bean (Android version 4.1) official at the I/O 2012 developers conference, which was held in the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California last week. Google also unveiled two new Nexus devices, the Nexus 7 and Nexus Q, only one of which runs a consumer version of Android, making Nexus 7 is the halo device for Jelly Bean.
Some may argue Jelly Bean is a pretty significant update. Personally, I feel the combination of Project Butter, the new notification shade, Google Now and offline dictation is enough to warrant calling Jelly Bean a major OS update, making it a whole new version of Android, 5.0. But both the version number (4.1 instead of 5.0) and the set of new features allude that Google sees Jelly Bean as a minor – or incremental – update.
Either way, major or minor update, some things just don't add up. There is reason to believe Google may have something else up its sleeve for 2012, maybe another Android update. … Maybe.
I've lightly touched on the subject a few times in the past week, but it's worth noting that this is pure speculation on my part. There are no rumors to back this up directly, just a bunch of rumors that point in various directions and hint that something else may be up.
First, Android godfather Andy Rubin said in 2010 that Android updates would be slowed down to one per year. In the beginning, it seemed as if Android updates were hitting every couple months. The software was young, buggy and needed a ton of work, so the developers were working double time to appease its small user base. Rubin said updates would slow from roughly two updates per year to one.
Technically, we still haven't slowed down from two updates per year. Froyo (2.2) and Gingerbread (2.3) were released in 2010. The tablet-specific Honeycomb (3.0) and tablet-smartphone fusion update, Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0), were both released in 2011. And just last week Jelly Bean was made official. We still have six months (I'm including July since we're only five days in) before the end of the year in which Key Lime Pie – or the "K" version of Android – could be released.
But that's only one small piece of information that, for all we know, could mean absolutely nothing. The bigger piece of the puzzle that doesn't fit is the handful of rumors pointing at multiple Nexus devices this fall. For those that don't recall, the rumor alleged that Google would give partner manufacturers early access to new versions of Android instead of waiting to give them access when it's available to the public. We now know that the rumor was talking about the Platform Development Kid (PDK), which will be released to chipset makers and hardware manufacturers months in advance of an official Android software update announcement. Google said it was currently testing the PDK with several partners.
The other half of the rumor claimed that Google was working with as many as five manufacturers whom would release Nexus (or stock Android) devices and sell them sans contract in the Play Store. To be fair, these devices could launch as simply stock Android devices, not Nexus phones or tablets. If that's to be the case, no additional software update would be warranted.
We also heard similar rumors last year – that there would be multiple halo devices for a major Android update. Turns out, there was only one, the Galaxy Nexus by Samsung.
It's worth noting, though, that even if there aren't multiple Nexus devices this fall, there may be at least one. Google has a thing for releasing a Nexus phone each year, and while the Nexus 7 would technically qualify as the Nexus device for 2012, I still think there's a pretty good chance there will also be a Nexus phone this year. And that would warrant a software update. After all, what good is new hardware without shiny, new software to show off?
At this point, it could go either way. It's entirely possible, and it seems pretty likely if you consider the rumors. Then again, they are just that … rumors. I wouldn't expect another software update. But I wouldn't be surprised if we saw one later this year, along with the launch of a new Nexus phone. That said, it could cause some trouble for manufacturers and carriers when it comes to getting current devices up-to-date.
What say you, ladies and gents? Will there be another Android update and a Nexus phone in 2012? Or is the Nexus 7 and Jelly Bean all Google has for us this year? Speculate your hearts away in the comments below.